Waiting in the Wings
Who are the top graduating players Columbia needs to worry about replacing next season and who’s in line to replace them?
Let’s focus today on the three seniors who were 1st Team All Ivy:
TE Andrew Kennedy
Kennedy was one of the most prolific receiving tight ends in recent Columbia history. His knack for the end zone was especially impressive and will be the hardest to replace next season.
Only one upperclassman, rising senior Rafael Lopez, is among the crew of returning tight ends. But we heard a lot of good buzz about rising sophomore Chris Mooney, and he even got into some varsity games this year.
At 6-foot-5, it’s hard to rule out Hamilton Garner in this race.
LB Alex Gross
Replacing co-captain Alex Gross isn’t just a matter of stats like total tackles and passes defensed. The Lions will need another player to step up and fill the emotional leadership role Gross played on and off the field.
But as far as rising young linebackers goes, rising sophomore Zach Olinger made a big splash as a frosh this season, especially in the Yale game in week 7.
I also look for rising senior Nick Mistretta to take a leadership role, at least among the linebackers in 2011.
But someone other than Zach and Nick has to step up since the Lions are also losing senior co-captain Matt Moretto on graduation day.
We may well need to see the re-emergence of rising senior Evan Miller, who filled in very nicely in emergency injury duty in 2009 after Gross went down.
Rising junior Ryan Murphy is officially a linebacker, but he continues to mostly play in the role of a pass rushing specialist defensive end.
And could there be a chance for rising sophomore Brian East, who impressed me with his play in high school?
CB Calvin Otis and S Adam Mehrer
I know Otis was a 1st Teamer and Mehrer was an honorable mention All Ivy, but they’re both graduating and losing them presents a serious challenge for the entire secondary.
The best news is that rising seniors like A.J. Maddox, Kalasi Huggins, Neil Schuster, and Ross Morand have a great deal of playing experience. Maddox and Huggins are starters and Schuster and Morand have been impact players in a handful of games in their careers so far.
Rising junior Stephen Grassa got onto the field very often this season and seems like a potential star in waiting.
That’s five players with great experience and skill all learning more under the tutelage of the great secondary coach John Gutekunst.